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Michelle Obama-touted federal healthy lunch program leaves bad taste in some school districts' mouths

Posted by on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:30 AM
  • 117 Replies

(CBS News) The Laguna Beach Unified School District, in Southern California, is the latest district to rebel against the federal healthy lunch program -- a cornerstone of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. The school district announced Tuesday night that it will revise its lunch menus.

The USDA (which administers the program) says growing pains are to be expected, but the complaints from school officials are getting louder; they say kids aren't eating the vegetables and low-fat choices and end up too hungry to learn. And they're saying they're losing money from throwing out all the uneaten food.

The new lunch rules, some districts say, are just unpalatable. Grumblings came from school boards in California to Illinois, Indiana and New York.

In Kentucky, one official said students thought the healthy fare "tastes like vomit."

David H. Freedman writes about the obesity epidemic as contributing editor for The Atlantic. He said, "Any time we try to get people to take a big push or force them into it, we can expect probably the majority of people to not want to make that leap."

Under the program, the federal government dictates portions and menus. Lunches must include fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. And there's a calorie cap: 850 for high school kids, 700 for middle school, and 650 for elementary school.

Nutrition Standards for School Meals (USDA)

At California's Laguna Beach Unified School District, healthy lunches went over like a plate of cold leftovers. Debra Appel, food services supervisor at the school, said, "It's not the chicken nuggets, it's not the popcorn chicken. It's not the corn dogs and stuff that the kids really liked."

This year, the district will implement monthly taste tests and sell sandwiches to entice students back to the cafeteria.

Video protests govt. calorie limits in school lunches
USDA replacing junk food in schools with "smart snacks"
NYC public school adopts all-vegetarian menu, may be country's first

About 100,000 schools have signed up for the program -- fewer than expected. But the USDA said there were no widespread problems because most lunches already met the healthy guidelines. Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy under secretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services at the USDA, released a statement saying, "USDA continues to provide additional flexibility and technical assistance to schools as they all now work to offer healthier meals."

by on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:30 AM
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jcrew6
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:31 AM

USDA agrees to permanently modify national school lunch program requirement -

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas today said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has agreed to enact permanent changes to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program requirements in response to demands by Hoeven and Pryor.


In December 2012, USDA made temporary changes to the School Lunch Program in response to a letter led by Hoeven and Pryor and signed by other senators. Hoeven and Pryor then wrote legislation, which is likely to pass this month, to make the changes permanent. The senators’ legislation, the Sensible School Lunch Act, has broad, bipartisan support and the backing of the national School Nutrition Association. In response to their legislation, the USDA will now make the changes permanent administratively.


“Today, the USDA made the permanent changes we have been seeking to the School Lunch Program,” Hoeven said. “A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements. These are exactly the changes included in our Sensible School Lunch Act.”


“After hearing from educators, parents, and students, Senator Hoeven and I stepped in to help school districts who were frustrated with the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program’s strict new rules,” Pryor said. “I’m glad the USDA followed our lead and made these much-needed administrative changes that will give our school districts the permanent flexibility they need to keep our kids healthy and successful.”


Other senators who cosponsored the legislation include: Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tom Udall (Dem. N.M.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

- See more at: http://www.wdaz.com/event/article/id/21633/#sthash.K1OYI0Hr.dpuf

Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:41 AM
4 moms liked this
This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.
jcrew6
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Schools are losing money.  How do you propose they keep from a financial loss? 

Quoting Luvnlogic: This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.


UpSheRises
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:49 AM
2 moms liked this

 Thats what i was going to say...you don't go from tossing frozen corndogs into an oven and boiling a bag of frozen broccoli until every bit of nutrition is gone to preparing healthy, whole foods. If the food sucks, i'd blame the chef.

Quoting Luvnlogic: This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.

 

btamilee
by on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:57 AM
7 moms liked this

You can't just throw veggies on a plate and expect kids to eat them.  Perhaps if they came up with some ideas of how to incorporate veggies and fruits into other foods (stir fry's, pasta dishes, wraps, etc).  I worked at a local high school, and frankly....most of the *healthy* food was canned or frozen veggies thrown on a plate.  At one time they offered a great salad bar, with a fresh soup and whole grain breads everyday.  The kids loved it, but all of the sudden....it disappeared.  With the prices that they sell the junk a la ca rte stuff for...I can't believe they couldn't come up with some ideas for healthier alternatives.

Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:58 AM
3 moms liked this
Well, choosing between whether to cut healthy food from the menu or more efficiently managing other expenditures (administrators pay, for ex) I'd cut other areas first. My MIL works in the cafeteria at a local high school. It's ridiculous the amount of food and choices those kids have. It's like a buffet in Vegas. I get that the kids and parents are basically "customers" and you need to meet their expectations, but a simplifying of the menus could help. I'm going to date myself here, but school lunches used to have one or two choices at elementary level. My son has at least 3 hot food choices, 2 veggies, a couple of sides, an array of fruit, and a salad bar. And it all still tastes gross. Maybe a smaller menu prepared by people who know how to properly season and cook would help to introduce kids to what healthier food has the potential to taste like, kwim? And I'm not a health food person by any stretch. We eat more junk than we should at home. But I do make sure that each meal includes a veg that they will eat (currently, salad, raw carrots or broccoli, and sometimes steamed green beans are their faves). If the kids at school won't eat the nasty steamed spinach, quit buying and serving it. Opt for a different veg or serve it raw in a salad. Purée it into pasta sauce or soup. There's got to be a better solution than just throwing up their hands and going back to highly processed crap.

Quoting jcrew6:

Schools are losing money.  How do you propose they keep from a financial loss? 

Quoting Luvnlogic: This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.


smalltowngal
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:58 AM
1 mom liked this

Our school basically serves the same crap except there is a salad bad and kids get to choose a fruit and a veggie. My MIL, who was a teacher last year, was shocked to see how many kids would pick up raw peppers. Oh, they have whole wheat buns and whole wheat pizza now. I think mozzarella sticks are still counted as a meal so I don't know where this big, drastic change everyone is talking about is. 

ETA: It's not a salad bar but a salad option. 

Quoting UpSheRises:

 Thats what i was going to say...you don't go from tossing frozen corndogs into an oven and boiling a bag of frozen broccoli until every bit of nutrition is gone to preparing healthy, whole foods. If the food sucks, i'd blame the chef.

Quoting Luvnlogic: This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.



D-Town
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM
1 mom liked this
I think they would do more to help the obesity epidemic by putting gym back in schools than by changing the menu.
Luvnlogic
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Yep. Maybe a slower transition and sneaking the healthy in for a while would be the way to go. Baby steps rather than a shock to the system. :) And it wouldn't hurt to use a little seasoning and leave the veg raw. Heck, it's better for you raw and I'd rather ds dip a healthy food into ranch or ketchup than a formed and processed "meat" patty

Quoting UpSheRises:  Thats what i was going to say...you don't go from tossing frozen corndogs into an oven and boiling a bag of frozen broccoli until every bit of nutrition is gone to preparing healthy, whole foods. If the food sucks, i'd blame the chef.
Quoting Luvnlogic: This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.
 
smalltowngal
by Platinum Member on Jan. 8, 2014 at 11:02 AM

I wonder what the hs is like but our elementary isn't. They have a couple fresh fruit and veggie options they've added and there is a premade salad you can get. Other than that, it's pretty much crappy food. 

Quoting Luvnlogic: Well, choosing between whether to cut healthy food from the menu or more efficiently managing other expenditures (administrators pay, for ex) I'd cut other areas first. My MIL works in the cafeteria at a local high school. It's ridiculous the amount of food and choices those kids have. It's like a buffet in Vegas. I get that the kids and parents are basically "customers" and you need to meet their expectations, but a simplifying of the menus could help. I'm going to date myself here, but school lunches used to have one or two choices at elementary level. My son has at least 3 hot food choices, 2 veggies, a couple of sides, an array of fruit, and a salad bar. And it all still tastes gross. Maybe a smaller menu prepared by people who know how to properly season and cook would help to introduce kids to what healthier food has the potential to taste like, kwim? And I'm not a health food person by any stretch. We eat more junk than we should at home. But I do make sure that each meal includes a veg that they will eat (currently, salad, raw carrots or broccoli, and sometimes steamed green beans are their faves). If the kids at school won't eat the nasty steamed spinach, quit buying and serving it. Opt for a different veg or serve it raw in a salad. Purée it into pasta sauce or soup. There's got to be a better solution than just throwing up their hands and going back to highly processed crap.

Quoting jcrew6:

Schools are losing money.  How do you propose they keep from a financial loss? 

Quoting Luvnlogic: This is a good thing? The kids want chicken nuggets and corn dogs, so let's just give them the crap they want to eat? Of course they don't WANT to eat veggies, especially when they're still prepared by boiling or steaming them to the point of disintegration. The schools have just caved to what is, essentially, a hunger strike. Glad I switched to lunches from home.



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